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Legal expert weighs in on defense attorney's motion to throw out confession in Vanessa Guillen case

Legal expert says both testimony and evidence could get tossed if a federal judge agrees Miranda Rights were violated and accepts the motion.

WACO, Texas — Cecily Aguilar told a Texas Ranger On June 30, 2020, during interrogation that Aaron Robinson took her out to the woods, showed her Vanessa Guillen's dead body in a tough box and made her help him dismember the body. 

Later, Agular assisted in controlled calls to help law enforcement locate Robinson. According to a motion filed by defense attorney Lewis Gainor, Aguilar did so before she was told her Miranda Rights

The motions state Texas Ranger Travis Dendy waited three hours before telling Aguilar she was under arrest, at which point her Miranda Rights were then read to her.

 "After three hours of interrogation and attempts to help officers locate Robinson, Trooper Dendy told Ms. Aguilar that she would not be going home tonight and that she was under arrest. At that point, Dendy explained her Miranda rights, and she continued assisting officers," the document states. 

The document also stated that Aguilar was pulled over by officers on Fort Hood that day and her cell phone was confiscated. It said officers then told Aguilar she was not under arrest and was free to leave. But, the officers also asked if she would come with them to the U.S. Army Criminal Investigation Command (“USACID”) Office on Fort Hood to be interviewed. 

The report says she agreed to do so and she was not under arrest at that time. 

Legal expert Liz Mitchell told 6 News Thursday, law enforcement's alleged failure to Mirandize Aguilar could have a significant impact on the case. 

"Where I think that we are going to get in trouble, is evidence that was seized as a result of her statement. If that evidence is thrown out, we have to start looking at what are we left with," Mitchell said. "Was some of the evidence fruit of a tainted interrogation?"  

According to the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center, Federal Law Enforcement Training Center, police must provide a suspect a Miranda warning when they are being interrogated in custody by law enforcement.

Mitchell pointed out that Aguilar's phone had been taken away and she was being guarded while questioned. She said a non-custody situation can easily turn into a custody situation depending on the factors involved. 

"She didn't have to be Mirandized in the beginning if she wasn't in custody. Would a reasonable person felt like they were free to leave? Like she could stand up and walk out the door and terminate the interrogation at that point? I would argue there are definitely factors that started to feel like she was in custody and not so free to leave," Mitchell said. "When that's the case she definitely needed to be Mirandized upfront."

Mitchell said the situation changed significantly when Aguilar was accused of lying less than 30 minutes into the interview. 

The report states, "Ranger Dendy asked, 'And that’s the story you’re going to stick with?' He followed up by asking Ms. Aguilar if she was willing to die for Robinson, to which she responded, 'Sure.' Then if she was willing to go to jail for him, and she said, 'No.' Dendy said, 'That’s the route we’re fixing to go down because I know that you’re lying to me—again.'"

Mitchell said that to her, it seems like Aguilar was in custody.

"I see a real problem if the facts in this motion are true, that is a real sticking point for me. The way the situation was developing it seemed like she was in custody," Mitchell said. 

This is still the possibility key facts have been left out of the motion, filed by the defense, that would defend these actions. There are statements in the motion that suggest Aguilar could have been Mirandized before being escorted for questioning.  

The motion says officers told Aguilar she was "free to leave" at the time of the stop. Mitchell told 6 News it sometimes necessary to Mirandize an individual more than once as new information becomes available. 

It is also possible Ranger Dendy got all the needed information from Aguilar again after the Miranda warning, though Mitchell said such two-step strategies could raise an issue as well. 

"It's a case-by-case basis," Mitchell said. "It's going to be a question of was their flagrant misconduct. Was it a way to misleader her? Was it a way to trap her?" 

6 News also spoke to Guillen Family Attorney Natalie Khawam about the motion Thursday. Khawan said she believes the motion does not accurately describe the situation. 

"Her events aren't actual. She doesn't admit to the fact that she voluntarily spoke to them and they told her she has a right. She waived that right," Khawam said. 

Khawam didn't have any additional information on exactly when Aguilar was Mirandized or if she was Mirandized more than once. She said she believed the motion would be dropped in court. 

A Federal Judge will hold a hearing on the motion April 27.

RELATED: Defense files motion to throw out confession made in Vanessa Guillen murder

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